Pakistan duo fail drugs tests
Pakistan have withdrawn fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif from the ICC Champions Trophy after they failed tests for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone.
The pair were tested internally by the Pakistan Cricket Board as part of their requirements prior to the tournament in India.
Pakistan were due to play their first game against Sri Lanka in Jaipur on Tuesday but neither player will now take any part in the competition and will return home.
The PCB tested 19 players three weeks ago through a Malaysian laboratory. The two players concerned, both of whom have recently recovered from injury, returned positive samples.
The board are now awaiting confirmation of the results from ‘B’ samples, which are expected on Tuesday.
A statement from the Pakistan Cricket Board read: “The PCB has asked for reconfirmation of the tests from the Malaysian laboratory and the results are expected by tomorrow.
"PCB has decided to withdraw the two players from the ICC Champions Trophy 2006 immediately. The players will return back home on the first available flight."
The players are two of Pakistan’s most potent weapons and both made a huge impact towards the end of this summer’s tour of England after finally regaining fitness.
Shoaib has been troubled for most of the year by knee and ankle problems while Asif missed the start of the Test series against England with an elbow injury.
The players could face lengthy bans but as the tests were conducted by the PCB, they come outside the jurisdiction of the International Cricket Council, who could levy heavy bans under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code.
The ICC are randomly testing players during the Champions Trophy.
ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said: “We take a zero-tolerance approach to drugs. We are disappointed this has happened and disappointed for these players. We will get to the bottom of it.”
The affair comes after a turbulent couple of months for Pakistan cricket following The Oval ball-tampering fiasco, board upheaval and the resignation and re-appointment of Younis Khan as stand-in captain.
Khan admits the news has come as a shock but the team will prepare as normal for tomorrow’s game.
“Yes it is obvious that when your key players are forced out it is a shock, but we just have to get on and play well, putting all else out of our mind,” Khan told Indian station NDTV.
Drugs in sport have become a huge issue in recent years but Speed insisted: “Cricket is generally regarded as a low-risk sport. The risk for cricket would be a player injured taking a substance inadvisably to come back quickly.”
The most high-profile doping incident in cricket relating to non-recreational drugs concerned Australian great Shane Warne three years ago.
Warne was banned for a year after testing positive for a diuretic, which can be used as a masking agent for other substances.